13 Peaceful Hands, Violent Thoughts

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- still late afternoon -

Artim looks through the spoke's wall at the podstack and says, "Calling poffs 'good kids' is like saying jackals are cute as puppies." He turns towards Katelle. "They're a kind of wild demon dog that's popularized throughout backtime mythology…. Doesn't matter." He looks back out at the podstack and squints at some movement in the common area on the roof. "Would your good puppies kill you?"

"Of course not. They're not bodyguards, and they love me."

Artim snorts. "Anyone who doesn't is a crazy Nathan. Would they turn you in to be 'retired'?"

Katelle taps a circle on the west wall and it opens. "No. Not directly or indirectly. They live with a lot of guilt and make up for it with directness. I mean, they'd follow orders, but only just that far. They tend to ignore hints. So basically trust that I know—"

"I trust you of course. This is despite your... slips from truth. You seem to be rather comfortable in knowing the adult poffs, but that's fine. I'm not jealous and I don't need to know the details. I'm maybe just curious if they are guilty about being poffs as you—"

"They're not ashamed about being peace officers. They have a lifestyle issue, which as you say you don't need to know about. Okay?" Artim nods and Katelle says, "We walk natural and boring like we were and then hug the side near the farmstack and toss a pebble at their window."

"Eastman and Pho share a pod?"

Katelle says, "No no, they just live next to each other."

"Ahh." He smiles and then stops. "Wait, you were being literal, an actual pebble really? Not a text or comms even?"

Katelle spreads her hands. "It's a thing we did. Good to remind big dangerous men of boyhood games, especially from a time they worshiped and adored me." She pats his arm. "It's just some psychological reinforcement. Nowko I'll keep in reserve, but these boys we're going to need.

"Imagine everyone gathered around to hear the centennial speeches, and our young charges are revealing truths like bombs." She mouths explosion sounds. "Even if I get my poff puppies to hesitate for a few minutes that would be so much said true heart with the extra slam of youthful sincerity. Dripping, as you said, with hormonal righteousness." She tugs her raven hair and says, "So one one true as. Just a quick chat with the boys, then we hurry on and settle in to our new secret headquarters."

"At the farmstack next to your known poff associates?"

She chuckles. "Of the nine hundred seventy living aboard, close to three hundred of us are under twenty. Even excluding the last originals, cause they're basically dead anyway, almost as many are over fifty. That leaves like three hundred fifty or so peers and just a hundred sixty-seven prime crew spots." She taps just above the left breast of her onesuit, right on a golden stripe, and a badge appears, Teacher Voune. "Anyone who doesn't have one of these is a passie, a mere passenger. We're prime crew. Some secondaries, some reserves, but still a clear divide right down the ship population." She holds her hands together and then pulls them apart. "I know just about every prime crew by sight and name. It's noticed if you don't. So you may ostracize yourself to feel closer to the passie underclass, but the normal thing is to have most of your associates be prime like you."

Artim sweeps an arm around the open section and transparent walls of the circular room, fingers extended as if he's selecting everything in sight. "I thought you knew everyone, including the passies?"

"Not everyone. Just the everyone that matters."

He sighs and says, "You make it sound like I got passed over in favor of you because you are friendly with everyone, sweet as a Glorate pie."

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